Review by Taylor Kendal
I would first like to preface this review saying that I had absolutely no previous knowledge of the artist or any previous work, and was going into this performance completely blind and intrigued. Some of the thoughts that I had at the time and touch on here have shifted slightly upon reflection when writing this review.
If there is one thing that these lockdown periods have been good for, it is the flow and creation of new types of theatre, and the reinvention of those to be brought to the masses without leaving the comfort and safety of our homes. To many, it has been a saving grace, keeping our sanity intact and a creative outlet. This show is all of that and more.
From the mind of Moira Finucane, Melbourne’s queen of cabaret and burlesque, and one half of Finucane & Smith, comes Rapture: Bathtub Edition. Yes. Bathtub edition. A lockdown inspired and created reimagining of her performance Rapture: Art vs. Extinction, previously performed prior to the pandemic in 2019.
During this performance, the audience is taken on a wild journey. An entangled tapestry of storytelling, startling images and a powerful script that weaves indisputable facts about the current global climate crisis and the effects on the world, particularly Antarctica. A great portion of this is performed by Finucane alone in her bathtub, writhing in the water covered in a gossamer black sheet. Surging with raw passion and power, she is both ethereal and at times, quite terrifying.
Those that are unfamiliar with Finucane’s work might find certain elements a bit confusing and confronting, especially being thrown into the deep end with no prior knowledge. I will admit that there were moments that I found myself confused and unable to follow; talks of political propaganda and Nosferatu and comparisons made to Mark Zuckerberg’s take over of social media. There were also elements such as physical and vocal characterisations, that felt a little jarring and had me, admittedly, contemplating leaving the session for a moment as it made me feel a little uncomfortable. While I think myself quite open minded, this sort of performance (or this portion) was not really my cup of tea, though I am glad that I decided to see it through.
Woven throughout the piece are performances by Rachel Lewindon, playing the theremin and some stunningly haunting pieces on the piano during scene transitions. The musical accompaniment adds an air of both sorrow and power to the piece, which fits in with the theme completely.
But perhaps the highlight of the performance, in my eyes at least, was the latter part; a stripped back, simple recount of Finucane as herself, telling of her time spending a year working in Antarctica spending her days witnessing the marvel of life among Emperor penguins. It is simple, profound and personal, and I found myself hanging on her every word from that moment on. The love that Finucane has for these creatures and their home is so beautifully evident, it truly leaves the audience going away with more than something to think about.
Upon further reflection, more connections between various elements of the show come to light in my mind – though still confronting, provides a little more closure to the experience, as well as one lingering thought that I will forever take through life with me;
Small kindnesses and small cruelties have epic consequences.